Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is someone voting in your name?

Yesterday, the Phnom Penh Post published maps and data showing voter registration rates are well over 100% in most Phnom Penh. According to the article, more than 145,000 additional names can be found on the voter list for the capital. In Tonle Bassac commune for example, the registration rate is 168%, meaning an extra 9,197 names can be found on the voting list compared to the actual number of voters in the area. For Sras Chok, the corresponding numbers are 138% and 5,747 names. The situation is similar in other parts of the country as well.
So What does this mean? Well, technically that someone could be voting in your name. The reason for this is that nearly 500,000 Identification Certificate for Election (ICE) forms have been issued by the government since the voter registration period closed. Apparently, these can be easily misused to claim excess names.
For us here at Urban Voice, it is interesting to note that centrally located communes – such as Tonle Bassac and Sras Chok – where the percentage of excess registration is high, are also communes that many people have been evicted from the in the past. This raises the question of whether or not the names of evicted people have been struck off the voter list in their old location, given that the evictees are likely to have registered to vote in their new location. In other words, could someone claim the name of someone evicted from Tonle Bassac, receive an ICE form, and vote fraudulently? According to the Phnom Penh Post, this is a concern because “[provided] the applicant has two witnesses and photos, ICEs can be approved by commune chiefs – more than 97 per cent of whom belong to the Cambodian People’s Party.”
To check if you are featuring twice on the voter list and thus risking someone voting in your name, go to the online voter list or check this list of 25,251 duplicate names created by the Phnom Penh Post.

Download nationwide registration maps and spreadsheet of duplicated names of voter

Giving more than 100%

Nearly all of Phnom Penh’s communes have voter registration rates in excess of 100 per cent, amounting to more than 145,000 additional names, with one commune topping the 200 per cent mark, an analysis of previously unseen government population data reveals.
Further analysis of the already public National Election Committee voter list shows there are more than 25,000 exact duplicate names in Phnom Penh alone, despite previous NEC assurances that exact duplicates had been removed.
That data as well as leaked commune-level numbers obtained by the Post draw detailed maps of over-registration.
Download nationwide registration maps and spreadsheet of duplicated names
filename: size: 27MB 
SHA1 checksum: 299281c746dccbe4056323aa972cf219411eb2c4
These bloated registration rates raise concerns that ballot rigging could be conducted in specific areas through various methods, from more sophisticated manipulation of voter identity documents to simple ballot stuffing.
The huge spike of names in Phnom Penh, where 83 out of 96 communes have more than 100 per cent registration, is repeated in key electoral provinces across the country. In Kampong Cham, a total of about 129,000 more voters than people of voting age are registered in 137 of 173 communes.
For battleground provinces Kandal and Prey Veng, the number of excess voters in 122 of 127 communes totals more than 114,000 and 64,000 in 96 of 116 communes, respectively.
In some cases, comparisons of the late 2012 NEC voter registration list and the government-produced, UNDP-sponsored commune/sangkat database (CDB) reveal there are as many as 9,000 additional registered voters across individual communes.
One of the major concerns to monitors is that the NEC has issued an unusually high number of Identification Certificate for Election (ICE) forms — nearly 500,000 — after the voter-registration period closed late last year. Election watchdogs have warned that these forms can be easily misused to claim excess names.
Laura Thornton, resident director of the National Democratic Institute, said the fact that there were “way too many” names on the voter list, direct duplicates and an unusually high number of ICEs all amounted to “a concerning cocktail of information”.
“The concern is that if you have a bunch of extra names on the voter list that you want to take advantage of, an easy way would have been to get an ICE issued in the name of a duplicate name,” she said.
“So if a party wanted to use names, that would be the easiest way to do it.”
Though ICE forms were used legitimately to register people to the voter list, Thornton explained that the only legal use for the hundreds of thousands that had been issued after registration was in the rare event that some lost their identification through theft or bad luck.
“To think that [so many] people would need that, it’s just not plausible,” she said.
Another way the additional names could be exploited was if polling officials simply did not check IDs, though this was considerably more risky because, unlike ICEs, such actions could be spotted by polling monitors.
“What will be fascinating to see will be … what happens on Election Day, what is the turnout in those areas and how many people will vote with ICEs.”
Provided the applicant has two witnesses and photos, ICEs can be approved by commune chiefs — more than 97 per cent of whom belong to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha maintained the high number of ICEs issued since registration was required to account for all of those who might have lost their ID.
“We have issued 480,000 ICEs since registration to vote [ended]. From January to this time, we are totalling it and will have a number tomorrow,” he said yesterday.
Nytha said the NEC had cleaned many duplicated names from the voter list, though some had not been cleared because slight variations in spelling could make identification difficult.
But he declined to specifically address questions about direct duplicates in Phnom Penh and said he would have to look into figures of over-registration before commenting.
The highest rates of over-registration coincide with two things: the provinces that are worth the highest number of seats at the election and the provinces in which the opposition are considered to have the greatest chance of making inroads. In safe CPP rural provinces, the over-registration rate is far lower.
By sheer number of names registered above the government CDB population figures, communes in Phnom Penh stand out, with Toek Thla commune in Sen Sok district at 9,472 (136.9 per cent) and Tonle Bassac commune in Chamkarmon district at 9,197 (168.0 per cent).
The highest percentages of over over-registration, meanwhile, are found in Chang Krang commune in Kratie province’s Chet Borei district (209.5 per cent) and at Chaktomuk commune in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district (202.3 per cent).
But it is inner Phnom Penh that is most disturbing as a whole. There, 12 of 41 communes have an over-registration rate above 135 per cent. In these inner-city communes, the opposition fared above-average.
A total 25,251 voters registered on the NEC list for Phnom Penh, meanwhile, have exactly the same name with the same spelling, same date of birth and same gender.
In a statement issued in April, the NEC announced that “for double names which were found on the 2011 voters lists by Comfrel … NEC did not completely delete because the NEC deleted only the names which have the same data.”
Cambodia National Rescue Party candidate Son Chhay said his party had found instances where one person’s name had been repeated on the voter list up to seven times and that the same tactics had stopped the opposition from winning a single commune chief position in Phnom Penh in the 2012 commune election.
“This success gave them [the CPP] another idea, that they will do the same for this election so they increase the number of extra voters,” he said.
“This is the thing that we are very concerned about right now.”
Sam Rainsy Party senator Mardi Seng said he was shocked to hear how high the rates were but was, at least anecdotally, well aware of the problem.
“I’m one of them. I’ve found my name in two different communes, and I am very interested in who is voting for me in the other place.”

Cambodia’s 2013 Elections: A Measure of Political Inclusion?

Please link to original source:

July 24, 2013

Cambodians will go to the polls on July 28 for the fifth National Assembly election since the U.N. organized the historic 1993 elections. Victory for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is expected by many to be a foregone conclusion – a continuation of Hun Sen’s 28-year reign as prime minister, one of the longest serving leaders in Asia.
Cambodia election posters
Voter support for the CPP has remained steady over the last decade. The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) annual polling over the last seven years shows that roughly 80 percent of Cambodians believe the country is headed in the right direction. Photo/Karl Grobl

However, the 11th-hour return of the self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy last Friday, which culminated in a welcome rally attended by an estimated 100,000 supporters, has re-energized his coalition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), though the excitement was soon subdued when election authorities ruled on Monday that they would reject Rainsy’s application to run (although Rainsy is protesting this decision).

In addition, Sam Rainsy’s return failed to make nation-wide news in the government-dominated media. This is significant because the bulk of Cambodia’s citizens, 80 percent of whom live in rural areas, lack access to alternative sources of news and information, except those that amplify the CPP party line.

On top of that, a National Democratic Institute study of the quality of the government’s voter list found that 10.4 percent of voters listed could not be located and 9.4 percent of eligible voters had been deleted from the list. The fact the National Election Commission has not approved Sam Rainsy’s candidacy and thus he will not be on the ballot underlines many points on the opposition’s platform over the cooptation of the state by the CPP.

Meanwhile, the CNRP’s campaign efforts have been tarnished since their debut due to what some view as politically motivated use of the media and judicial system by the CPP, targeting the CNRP’s deputy, Kem Sokha, with legal claims of genocide denial and reneging on child support. Regardless of the CPP’s democratically questionable political tactics, it is important to understand why it remains such a formidable player in Cambodia.

Voter support for the CPP has remained steady over the last decade. The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) annual polling over the last seven years shows that roughly 80 percent of Cambodians believe the country is headed in the right direction. This is owed in part to the fact that in the last two decades, Hun Sen has effectively centralized power in Cambodia. It must be remembered that few nations have suffered as much terror as Cambodians did under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Even today, it is no small feat that this year’s campaigning has been conducted without major violent incident or political assassination and many Cambodians, especially those of the older generation, have taken note.

Much of the CPP’s legitimacy can be directly linked to the declining poverty rate which has been halved in the last decade. Behind Myanmar, Cambodians have experienced the second-most rapid rate of improvement in Human Development Index among the countries in the lower Mekong region in the last 10 years. Not only have there been steady increases in household income, but citizens have also benefited from improvements in local infrastructure, including roads, schools, and pagodas. In fact, 74 percent of those in IRI’s poll who said Cambodia is headed in the right direction said so because there are more roads now.
Cambodia elections
Cambodians have experienced the second-most rapid rate of improvement in Human Development Index among the countries in the lower Mekong region in the last 10 years. Photo/Karl Grobl

To date, the CPP has arguably achieved such gains through consolidating a party structure which has extended its hierarchy from Phnom Penh to almost every village in the country. Although the party’s super-structure has buttressed the state’s security apparatus and administrative functions, the party may increasingly find difficulty in controlling itself. Roughly 20 percent of Cambodians in IRI’s poll said that they think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Corruption and land-grabbing have been their overriding concerns. Both Cambodia’s civil society organizations and international donors echo these concerns and have pushed for democratic reforms to address the many outstanding cases of corruption and human rights abuses.

Despite skepticism around the election, some important takeaways have already emerged. First, CNRP’s ability to spark strong interest among younger voters, particularly in urban areas, clearly demonstrates that youth under the age of 25, which accounts for 53.8 percent of Cambodia’s population, have a radically different set of expectations than their parents. This new generation is more educated, consumerist, and in search of higher living standards. Increasingly drawn to urban areas for work, Khmer youth do not carry the same willingness as older generations to be detached from politics or bound by traditional social norms. Better jobs and improved access to services, especially in urban Cambodia, are emerging as priorities for youth in this election.

The ever-popular demand for more rural roads and basic infrastructure, such as irrigation, cannot be overlooked either. Decentralization has thus far been essential to the CPP’s success, where providing budgets and greater autonomy to elected commune authorities have resulted in more infrastructure projects like road building. Still, there is a long way to go; simply building more roads may not keep citizens satisfied.
There are signs that further decentralization could bring a wealth of other benefits, including improved services in health and education. In order to reap these benefits, local-level budgets need to be increased. Currently, the budgets of all local administrative authorities combined are still a fraction of the national budget.

Going forward, it may be that any political benefits from further decentralization may likely have less to do with more resource transfers and institutional capacity-building, and more to do with finding alternative ways to curb the excesses of power, such as improving access to information and public participation.
With poor protection of human rights on the one hand and increasing prosperity on the other, Cambodians face a conundrum when choosing a new government. This election may be a foregone conclusion in this instance, but at its core rests the question of whether a “1.5 party” system for the country will be stable over time.

In the book, Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, the authors’ sweeping review of political systems over the millennia suggests that economically open but politically closed states have either had to open up politically to continue to grow or risk economic stagnation and at worst, collapse.

With concerns over China’s impending economic slowdown, upon which Cambodia relies heavily, maintaining national economic growth will test any Cambodian government in the next five years. Over the long term, if Acemoglu and Robinson are correct, Cambodia’s continued growth may be the best measure of political inclusiveness.

Silas Everett is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Cambodia. He can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

U.S. House of Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Yesterday, July 9, 2013, U.S. House of  Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific opened the hearing about the donation for Cambodian government. The below is the witness from local and international organization who were testified by the committee regarding the human rights situation in Cambodia. 

The U.S. House of Committee on Foreign Affairs will decide next five days. 

Please listen the whole discussing on this matter:

Subcommittee Hearing: Cambodia’s Looming Political and Social Crisis

Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific | 2172 House Rayburn Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Jul 9, 2013 2:00pm

Opening Statements


Mr. John Sifton
Asia Advocacy
Human Rights Watch
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]
Ms. Evi Schueller
Legal Consultant
Cambodian League for the Promotion of Defense of Human Rights
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]
Mr. Patrick Merloe
Election Programs
National Democratic Institute
[full text of statement]
Mr. Daniel Mitchell
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director
SRP International Group
[full text of statement]
[truth in testimony form]

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